tools for bread baking

tools for bread baking | movita beaucoup

When I decided to go baking school, I knew nothing about bread, and wasn’t particularly passionate about it. (I mean, it’s not cake.) Still, I enrolled in a baking program with a heavy focus on bread, and spent the better part of 10 months baking thousands of loaves. Why? Because the science and technique behind making bread will make you a better person baker.

Let’s talk about some bread baking tools. This is not a complete list by any means, and I’m not suggesting that you need to run out and buy these things tomorrow. Take a look, see what you’ve got, put the other stuff on your wish list.

Tools I can’t live without when baking bread:

Scale. A scale will help with measuring ingredients accurately, scaling/portioning the dough, and is handy when adjusting recipe quantities. (Ever tried measuring 5/8 of a tablespoon? Cripes! Grams are way easier.) When baking multiple loaves, those that are equally portioned will finish baking at the same time and prevent fights over who gets the bigger loaf. Digital scales are the easiest to use, and need not cost a lot of money. Pair this purchase with some small baggies, and you’ll be in the market for making new friends.

Thermometer. Thermometers are invaluable when checking the temperature of liquids for yeast (generally 110°F), and checking your bread for doneness (baked bread will need to be 195-210°F, depending on type). Digital thermometers are easy to read and very accurate. Checking the internal temperature of bread is the easiest way to ensure your bread is fully cooked. A deeply browned loaf can sometimes be deceiving – bread that looks fully baked can still be undercooked on the inside. Under-baked bread will taste doughy, and tends to collapse on itself. Over-baked bread will be tough and dry. Neither will win you a ribbon at the county fair.

Stand mixer. A good stand mixer can’t be beat. Both the paddle and bread hook attachments will get a workout, and a motor with oomph will make your job a lot easier.

Bonus points:

Bowl Scraper. It scrapes bowls. Especially handy when working with sticky doughs.

Bench Scraper/Dough Cutter. Makes portioning dough easy and scrapes gunk off counters. It’s also very handy for smoothing icing on cakes.

tools for bread baking | movita beaucoup

Extra credit:

Spice jar with sprinkle lid (probably not the technical name). For sprinkling flour on your countertop or dough. (Also handy for flouring cake pans.) You’ve probably got one in the spice cupboard. Throw out that weird seasoning you haven’t used in 15 years and put that jar to good use. FIY, we didn’t use these at baking school. There is a technique to covering your bench with flour – it involves flinging. I’ll show you sometime.

Spray bottle. I bought my spray bottle at the Dollar Store. Some silky doughs like a little spray of water when rolling. Also handy for spraying oven walls when baking artisan breads. I wouldn’t bother getting one of these unless you’ve got a recipe requests it specifically. Heck, you could just use the bottle you spray the cat with when she’s treating your couch like a giant pincushion.

Lame. These blades make fancy cuts (scores) in breads (artisan and hearth breads, baguettes). Scoring is done right before baking, as you are about to load the oven. Lames are very sharp. Be careful: they care not who they cut. Again, don’t buy one until you need one. A very sharp serrated knife can also be used.

You can also buy proofing baskets/bannetons, baking stones, loaf pans and other fancy pants stuff, but I don’t recommend buying anything like that until you decide if bread baking is for you. These items can be pricy.

tools for bread baking | movita beaucoup

Fake it:

Proofer. Your yeast beast will perform at its best in a warm, moist environment. I live in an old house. My kitchen is cold and dry in the winter. Bread won’t proof (rise) if I simply leave it on the counter, so I fake a proofer. A few minutes before my dough is ready for proofing, I turn my oven on for about 60 seconds at 150°F, and then turn it off – that way my dough will have a slightly-above-room-temperature environment to grow in. Don’t overdo it – I can’t stress this enough. When my dough is ready for it’s first proof, I place it in a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a dish towel, and then place it in the oven. I then fill a metal bowl with boiled water, and set it beside or under the bread, to keep the oven warm and humid. I check the oven during the proofing process and refresh the boiled water if necessary. In warm months, I don’t find this necessary. So if your kitchen is cozy, you can simply cover your dough with a dish towel, and skip the DIY proofer.

29 Comments

  1. thatskinnychickcanbake on January 16, 2015 at 11:14 am

    I’m going to bake a loaf this weekend—and am wondering why I don’t own a bowl scraper! Love your list!!!
    P.S. I use the same “proofer” as you do–my kitchen is drafty!

    • movita beaucoup on January 16, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      Best part of ’em is you can buy them for a couple of bucks! They are magical…

  2. rockandwool on January 16, 2015 at 11:31 am

    ohmyyeastygoodness—
    here I was going to give up Wheat products this year !!

    Lub you,
    teri

  3. Lan | morestomach on January 16, 2015 at 11:39 am

    sometimes i feel like we’re twins — i also do the fake proofer thing in the oven. once, when i needed the oven while the bread was proofing i made dw rig me a proofer (he has since threatened to buy a $200+ proof box) by covering a foldable card table with a comforter and turning on a space heater under the table. was it safe? no, there was always that possibility of burning down the abode and that was exciting. was it accurate? i don’t think so, there was obviously some areas that had a breeze or whatever. did it work? eff yes.

    what do you do if you need to do a 2nd proof, when you need to preheat the oven??

    • movita beaucoup on January 16, 2015 at 1:42 pm

      Your story both delights and frightens me. Good work.

      If I need a second proof, just before I do the dough punch, I boil a kettle of water. I remove the dough from the oven, and then re-warm it for a minute or two and shut it off again. Then I punch and re-cover, and put the dough back in the warm oven with freshly boiled water. Delaying the punch down for a few minutes while I regroup isn’t any problem!

      Of course, I could just build a blanket fort and fire and be done with it.

  4. Mike Harvey (@Tw0fl0wer) on January 16, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    I love your idea of using the oven to proof a loaf. I’m definitely going to steal that idea.

    • movita beaucoup on January 17, 2015 at 8:36 am

      Karen has also left a comment to say that she uses her microwave! She has a wonderful blog called Karen’s Kitchen Stories (http://www.karenskitchenstories.com) with loads of bread recipes. You might like it!

  5. Matt Sevigny on January 16, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    I have all that stuff. What does it all mean?

    • movita beaucoup on January 17, 2015 at 8:37 am

      You’re a genius, of course.

  6. Stephbo on January 16, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    Good lord, I’m an idiot. I kept looking at the two unlabelled items in the first picture wondering what they were and why you didn’t label them too. Duh! Those would be the covers, Mademoiselle Dumbass.

    • movita beaucoup on January 17, 2015 at 8:38 am

      You know, after I posted that photo I thought: maybe I shouldn’t have left the covers in there. SOMEONE’S gunna get confused. Turns out it was you! Blame me, Mademoiselle Dumbass.

      • karen on January 18, 2015 at 4:44 pm

        I was really confused! THAT’S why my bread comes out different every time. I suck at bread baking.. I don’t have the tools

  7. krysten on January 16, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Brings me back to good ol school days! Like I’m in class again!

    • movita beaucoup on January 17, 2015 at 8:35 am

      Except we’re not crying…

  8. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef on January 16, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    I think I should go to the kitchen and make a loaf of bread. It will do us all good. 🙂 My thermometer died so we’re going to have to wing it.

    • movita beaucoup on January 17, 2015 at 8:40 am

      Many good things come from winging it! And if you’ve baked bread before, experience makes up for equipment!

  9. Karen @ Karen's Kitchen Stories on January 17, 2015 at 1:37 am

    Bread head here. Got ’em all. My proofer is my microwave with two cups of boiled water.

    • movita beaucoup on January 17, 2015 at 8:33 am

      Karen, that’s a brilliant idea! The small space would be easy to keep warm. I can only imagine the delightful bread baking gear you’ve got. (Keep your doors locked.)

  10. thekalechronicles on January 17, 2015 at 1:57 am

    I like the trick with the bowl of boiling water in the oven: we have been known to run our dryer for a few minutes and then set bread in there to rise while yelling at everyone in the house “DO NOT USE THE DRYER.”

    • movita beaucoup on January 17, 2015 at 9:00 am

      Using the oven would also eliminate the likelihood of someone throwing dirty underwear on your dough. (Probably.) “DON’T USE THE [INSERT APPLIANCE NAME HERE],” is a very common request around here!

  11. gottagetbaked on January 17, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    This is an excellent list, Movita. I have about half of these items but the other half have been on my must-buy list for a long time. Also, I never know the technical names of anything so I totally dig your descriptions-as-names.

    • movita beaucoup on January 19, 2015 at 7:49 am

      I’m so happy to hear this, as 2.0 thinks I make these names up. I appreciate your trust.

  12. Barb Dearborn on January 18, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Love this! usually I wing it, but it’s nice to know there are some great tools to help ensure success

    • movita beaucoup on January 19, 2015 at 7:41 am

      You don’t need a thing! You’re a NATURAL!

  13. Marguerite on January 18, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Love the tip about proofing. We have an old farmhouse and the kitchen is downright freezing in winter. I haven’t baked bread in a couple years due to some issues with trying to proof it right. This might solve the issue though.

    • movita beaucoup on January 19, 2015 at 7:48 am

      It really does help! Sometimes my proof takes longer than the recipe suggests – sometimes double the time if it’s really cold outside – but the warm oven eventually does the trick! If you give it a go, I’d factor in some extra proofing time, and plan to watch a good movie!

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